Britain’s trade association for the aluminium industry has created the first nationwide training programme in its history, aiming to deliver the next generation of talent for its members.
Midlands-based ALFED will operate a virtual academy, bringing together providers of skills and education, guiding companies through the maze of guidelines and schemes, and ensuring everyone benefits from the government’s apprenticeship proposals.
Training and education manager, Kathy Romback, says the concept was being fine-tuned in the weeks before lockdown, but is now up and running.
“Everyone in manufacturing knows there are skill shortages, and because many skilled workers are approaching retirement the problem can only get worse without radical change,” she said. “The government identified the challenge, but the structure of its proposals was so complicated, in particular regarding the apprenticeship levy, that many companies simply didn’t want to get involved.
She added: “We do have major plcs and international enterprises as members, but the majority are SMEs and usually owned by families or small management teams. They didn’t have the time to pore over the fine detail of training frameworks before Covid-19, so they’re certainly not going to start now.”
ALFED’s solution was to identify a training provider which could form a strategic partnership, using its knowledge of the skills landscape to dovetail with its understanding of what was required by its members, and the wider aluminium industry.
Ms Romback added: “We held lengthy discussions with several possible partners, and although it took quite a while, we are confident we’ve selected the best one, and are just finalising the contractual arrangements.
“We’ve also been studying the government’s new Plan for Jobs, which was unveiled in August, and it’s a much more coherent vision about the delivery of skills-based training and the creation of apprenticeships than we’re previously seen.
“Our new partner already works with an array of universities, and other educational institutions, which can deliver advanced training and degrees in technical and business subjects.
“When we bring those two elements together in our virtual academy, members will be able to recruit new apprentices and up-skill existing employees so that we can together finally address the looming skills crisis.”